Jazmynn Appleton: Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities

By Shayna Mace | Photography By Hillary Schave, Shot on location at Madison Youth Arts Center (MYArts)

When Jazmynn Appleton was let go from her credit union job during the pandemic, it forced her to be thoughtful about what she really wanted to do next. She was working part-time for the state’s Department of Workforce Development when she reached out to Sabrina Madison, CEO and founder of the Progress Center for Black Women. Madison was hiring for a part-time administrative job at the Center, which is a hub for Black women and entrepreneurs seeking sisterhood and support that offers networking events, a coworking space and mentoring and education opportunities. Appleton had attended Madison’s Black Women’s Leadership Conference back in 2019, and she came away inspired.

“That [conference] was the first time I was around that many Black women in one space, and I thought it was amazing,” says Appleton. “And I admired Sabrina’s leadership and how she interacted with others and inspired people.”

When the women met, Madison told Appleton the administrative position was filled — but she wanted to create a new, part-time position around entrepreneurship. Madison offered her the job. As a young, single mom (she had a six-year-old at the time), Appleton knew it was a risk to leave her secure state job — but she accepted the position. Now, she’s thriving as the Center’s (full-time) chief director of entrepreneurial growth and innovation.

“I came in very shy, very introverted. I’ve always been that way. But coming here … I don’t know what it was, but it felt like a true calling of mine. I really have blossomed into what I feel like I always should have been,” explains Appleton.

Her position involves connecting with and mentoring Black entrepreneurs, planning networking events for the Center and cultivating relationships with Madison-area businesses. Recently, she’s added speaking engagements to her accomplishments, including at the Fifth Annual Black History Educational Conference and as a Forward Fest panelist. In January, she’s hosting a workshop at Marquette University. As someone who has previoiusly dealt with anxiety and depression, Appleton admits public speaking has forced her out of her comfort zone — in a good way.

With all she’s already achieved, Appleton has her sights set on her next set of goals in the coming year: obtaining a life coaching certification, building out a youth entrepreneurial training program for the Center and more speaking commitments.

“It’s being able to take these risks, and seeing, ‘OK, I can do this. I am good at this.’ And putting myself out there.”

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